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Lazy 'Fantastic Four' is doomed to be a fantastic flop
Johnny Storm's (Michael B. Jordan) new powers have scientists searching for answers in "Fantastic Four." - photo by Josh Terry
The sight of Miles Teller bound to an examination table, arms and legs stretched out well beyond normal human length, is a perfect metaphor for Fantastic Four. Its 20 minutes of story painfully stretched into a 90-minute film.

The setup takes its time but offers some promise. Teller plays Reed Richards, a child genius who teams up with some other gifted youngsters to work on a top-secret teleportation project. When the government threatens to steal their work, Richards and his team decide to test it out themselves, and an ill-fated trip to a parallel dimension winds up giving superpowers to four characters while one member of the team is left behind.

Richards winds up with the aforementioned extendable appendages. Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) becomes the Human Torch, thanks to a new ability to control fire. His adopted sister Sue (Kate Mara) can become invisible, and Richards childhood buddy Ben (Jamie Bell) turns into a rock version of the Incredible Hulk called "the Thing."

The problem is that this setup is pretty much the whole movie. The origin story drags itself out at an almost comically slow pace. Eventually, the four brand-new superheroes have to square off against the guy they left in the parallel dimension (Victor Von Doom, played by Toby Kebbell).

Left on his own, Doom has become a megalomaniacal supervillain bent on the destruction of the planet he left behind. Not that anyone is surprised. When you grow up with a name like Doom, your career path is pretty much laid out for you.

The truth is that just as with Sonys recent Spider-Man reboot, Fantastic Four exists only so Twentieth Century Fox can maintain its rights to the Marvel property. The fourth season of Arrested Development had a running subplot about a low-budget version of Fantastic Four that was rushed into production back in the '90s to hold onto property rights, and director Josh Tranks thin effort here just keeps the gag going.

Things look even worse when you realize that Fantastic Four had such a low bar to begin with. Fox already tried to get this franchise off the ground 10 years ago, but the two films it produced were such critically panned flops that even a minimum of competence here would have been considered a success.

(In fact, remembering Chris Evans lackluster performance as Johnny Storm is one of the things that makes his reinvention as Captain America so enjoyable.)

If theres a plus side, the effects arent too bad, and there is some genuine talent in the cast. But its wasted on a movie that stumbles all over itself. Scenes are padded with excessive ponderous gazes from actors who could have used the time for character development. When something does happen, characters like Richards use expository dialogue to telegraph parts of the story that arent being told. Or they give impassioned speeches meant to evoke emotional responses the film hasnt earned.

The humor falls flat, none of the characters generate any real chemistry, and most of the time the interesting action either happens off-screen or during long passages of time that title cards skip us over.

Incompetence on this scale is extremely discouraging, and the idea that Trank and company are asking audiences to pay full ticket price for this effort seems almost arrogant. Audiences would be wise to remember there are plenty of other quality options at the theaters this summer.

This one just isnt worth your time.

Fantastic Four is rated PG-13 for considerable sci-fi action violence and some profanity.